Seniors downsizing on their own terms: overcoming planning, legal and policy impediments to the creation of alternative retirement communities

Ageing Retirement Housing Australia
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As discussions of how to house an ageing population continue, National Seniors Australia has released a report exploring the motivations, incentives and disincentives around downsizing for both homeowners and more vulnerable seniors.

The research comprised a literature review of Australian, European and North American research and commentary on housing for older people. It also included in-depth interviews with seniors from Western Australia, South Australia and New South Wales, as well as professionals in housing related fields. This data was used to identify available housing models nationally and internationally for downsized accommodation options with suitable amenities and supports.

The findings revealed:

  • There is a significant gap between what seniors want and what is available; pointing at a lack of innovation and flexibility in planning and design that considers lower maintenance, proximity to transportation and amenities, community access, and affordability.
  • Concentrations of housing present opportunity for increased leisure area and promotes a sense of community, while reducing maintenance requirements.
  • Multi-unit/multi-use developments including apartments can support independent living with on-site support services.
  • Multi-age precincts, where multi-generational living is preferred to the traditional retirement village is a favourable model, enabling a more diverse community, often with better access to amenities.
  • A preference to ‘downsize in place’ offers seniors opportunities to remain in the family home/property while minimising maintenance and gaining additional income through sharing the property, partitioning to rent or sell and subdividing.
  • There is currently not enough housing stock that meets the needs of seniors, and this will worsen as the elderly population increases.
  • Existing legal framework for housing types and tenures can prevent innovative housing arrangements and greater flexibility is needed.
  • Restrictions on density and inflexible town planning schemes may prevent the introduction of alternative forms of housing
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